The Urgent Need to Bring More Habeas Petitions for Detained Immigrant Children

We will all never forget the heart wrenching images of the family separation crisis. Government agents forcibly ripping apart mothers their children. Children locked in cages.

My own great grandmother was detained and separated from her parents as a child. Fleeing religious persecution in Eastern Europe, she and her family escaped on small boats in the night and then finally made it to a ship that brought them to the United States. Upon arrival at Ellis Island, immigration officials separated my great grandmother from her parents and detained her because her eyes were red and they thought she had an eye disease. At the time, one of the few grounds of inadmissibility was for health-related diseases. Her eyes were red because she had been crying nonstop for days. After a few days being held in detention, her eyes cleared up and she was released and allowed into the United States.

Today, immigrant children are not released from detention as quickly as my great grandmother was. We have seen increasing numbers of children subject to prolonged, indefinite detention throughout the Capital region. These children are detained for civil immigration and not criminal reasons. Many of them are asylum-seekers who have strong claims for protection to remain in the United States.

CAIR Coalition and other advocates of immigrant children’s rights face a tremendous challenge: we do not have enough resources to challenge the prolonged detention of every child. We know that many children have viable habeas petition claims available to bring in federal district court that, if brought, could result in their release. There is nothing more upsetting than being aware of a child who is locked up in a jail indefinitely, in violation of their liberty, and separated from their family, but who could get out if we had the capacity to file more petitions.

However, we all have a choice. We can give up in dismay, stop trying, and do nothing. Or, we can decide to mobilize and advocate together for the due process and liberty rights of children and against their prolonged detention. Even if it means we can only help a few children at a time, we can commit to learning more about this human rights abuse and how we can support efforts to stop it.

I choose the latter. I choose to continue to believe that we can come together as a community and work toward a more humane world, where children grow up surrounded by their families and communities, not guards, and live in environments that help them thrive, not cages.

I ask you to join me. Support the efforts of CAIR Coalition’s Immigration Impact Lab to bring more habeas petitions on behalf of children facing indefinite detention in our area. Help your families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues learn more about what is happening to immigrant children in this country today. Let us stand together, learn more, and grow a community that says no to the expansion of the government’s efforts to put more immigrant children in prolonged detention, takes action, and creates change.